James Agee in Tennessee

Non-Fiction - Biography
422 Pages
Reviewed on 02/01/2019
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Author Biography

Paul F. Brown is the author of Rufus: James Agee in Tennessee (University of Tennessee Press, 2018). As a freelance writer and researcher, he has published articles and lectured on James Agee and Frances Hodgson Burnett at various forums and is a consultant for a forthcoming Agee documentary. Paul and his wife live in Knoxville with their son.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Rufus: James Agee in Tennessee is a biographical work put together by Paul F. Brown. Focusing on American writer James Rufus Agee, most famous for penning the classic novel A Death In The Family and the screenplay for The African Queen, Brown chooses to home in on Agee’s boyhood for this biographical examination of his life. Agee spent a third of his life growing up in Tennessee, the state of his birth, and here Brown examines the tragic and emotive influences which may indeed have led the young ‘Rufus’ to write A Death In The Family, which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.

I went into this reading experience knowing next to nothing about James Agee and his work, and nevertheless I was immersed in the tale of this young boy and the culture in which he was raised. Author Paul F. Brown captures the Tennessee of the early 20th century beautifully, giving a fully rounded sense of history that is clearly superbly researched. Even thought Brown keeps his distance from supposing too much about young Rufus personally, the scenes in which his father’s tragic death is unveiled still touch the heartstrings as we see the impact and fallout which befalls the young boy hearing the news. I was also very intrigued by his school experience and the meeting with mentor Father Flye, which has really inspired me to read Agee’s works for myself. Overall, Rufus: James Agee in Tennessee paints a beautifully worded portrait of the life of a budding writer. A thoughtful biography not to be missed.